By Bruce Amaro
---- — He weighs only 91 pounds and is not even 5 feet tall, but this sixth-grader is no weakling.
He’s a state wrestling champ — not once, not twice, but three times.
Jake Nicolosi would say there’s nothing special about him, but the 12-year-old who stands 4 feet-8 1/2 inches tall has a display case filled with wrestling trophies.
He has won the Massachusetts State Youth Wrestling Championship for his weight class three consecutive years — 2012, 2013 and 2014.
On Saturday, he took second place in the Youth New England Wrestling Championships. Jake was one of 20 contenders in his weight class. He won all his matches except for his bout in the finals, which he lost to a boy from Connecticut.
In a sport where size, strength and physical condition matter, Jake stands out for his stamina.
“The coaches comment on his attitude and ability to stay focused,” said his mom, Kelly Nicolosi.
“We put him in classes for karate, but he didn’t like it,” she said.
“It was boring,” Jake said of the martial arts training.
Jake likes the action and constant motion of wrestling. He also plays baseball and football, but said wrestling is the sport he likes most. He attends St. Joseph’s School of All Saints Parish.
Jake and his brother Brent have a reputation for being committed to wrestling and pursuing it with one thing in mind — to win.
“When they come to the gym, they get right to work,” said Mick Lawlor, a coach at the Haverhill youth wrestling program operated by the city’s Recreation Department.
Lawlor sees a lot of talent in Jake. But talent is not enough, Lawlor said, and Jake understands that.
“He works hard,’’ the coach said. “Every practice for him is like he’s preparing for a championship match.’’
Asked what does in the gym to keep on top of his sport, to keep himself competitive, Jake said he enters every practice session as if it were a real tournament. He puts himself in a competitive mode.
“At practice, I think about the tournaments and that I am actually in a tournament,’’ he said. “That way, I stay ready for them.’’
He keeps himself in shape partly by doing cross fitness training.
Wrestling coaches emphasize conditioning — the ability to maintain a single physical action for prolonged times.
When Jake is not practicing in the Haverhill program, he works out at Smitty’s Wrestling Barn in Danville, N.H., run by Matt Smith, a former wrestler who won the High School National Championship in 2002. Smith has been in the wrestling training business 14 years.
“Jake’s one of those kids who puts everything into his work and now it’s starting to show,’’ Smith said. “He’s winning championships.
“It’s the effort that he puts into his training that makes him good and helps him improve every time he wrestles,” Smith said.
Wrestling is not all speed and hits. Unlike boxing, the opponents stay in very close contact for long periods of time.
“He never gets nervous,’’ Lawlor said. “He hits the right moves and he’s very poised and coordinated.’’
Asked about his wrestling and why he enjoys it, Jake said simply that it is fun. He said he treats every wrestling match like it’s his most important.
The other six Haverhill wrestlers who competed in the New England tournament Saturday in North Andover were Saun Mears, Edgar Feliciano, Rolando Carrasco, Roland Mercier, Cory Defusco and John Rose.
About Jake Nicolosi
Height: 4 feet-8 1/2 inches tall
Weight: 91 pounds
School: Sixth grade at St. Joseph School
Claim to fame: State youth wrestling champion 3 consecutive years
Other sports: Baseball and football